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And Now — a New Europe after De Gaulle

Europe will never be the same again. De Gaulle's charismatic influence over France and the world is gone.
Who will fill the void in France and Europe now that France's father-figure is no longer at the helm?


Paris, France

NO ONE saw large crowds, riots or signs of mass hysteria in Paris on the day President de Gaulle resigned. Vivacious Parisians, this once, awaiting De Gaulle's departure at the Elysee Palace, were calm, orderly, as they waved farewell to their leader. President de Gaulle had told the French people they would have to follow his leadership or reap "chaos" — "me or chaos." They wanted neither.

The French are, in fact, rather pleased with themselves that they did not panic when De Gaulle stepped down. France for once remained calm, was not unduly shaken.

Frenchmen, of course, have mixed emotions toward De Gaulle's departure from the political scene. They are both relieved and apprehensive — concerned about a future without their towering father-figure to guide them.


Perplexing Questions

What future is there for a De Gaulle-less France?

What will happen to Franco-American relations? Will there be a thaw — perhaps a honeymoon — in future Washington-Paris relations? Will France now cooperate more closely with her Western allies — especially in NATO?

Will the French franc have to be devalued in the near future? How long before an economically powerful West Germany picks up the reins of Common Market leadership from an unstable, vacillating France?

Will France soften her attitude toward Israel and lift her ban on arms shipments to that country? Will she now deliver the fifty Mystere supersonic jets which Israel has already paid for, but which De Gaulle refused to deliver?

After De Gaulle's resignation, the whole world waited to see who would be the next elected President of France — who, if anyone, could rule that unstable country. De Gaulle cast such a long shadow over France, Europe and the world for so long that any new French President must appear like a dwarf by comparison. Frenchmen, as well as non-Frenchmen, fear that political and economic instability may again return to France — as it was in the pre-De Gaulle days.

The burning question in the minds of Britons is this: "Will De Gaulle's departure from the French political scene now enable Britain to get her toe in the door of the Common Market?"


Why De Gaulle Stepped Down

Many have asked: "Just what was it that brought about the departure of President de Gaulle?"

Frenchmen, it will be remembered, became fed up with sacrificing endlessly in order to build De Gaulle's threefold dream: (1) French military power (her force de frappe), (2) massive gold hoardings and (3) international grandeur.

So . . . in May, 1968, all France erupted in a paroxysm of riots and strikes which brought France to a grinding halt. This widespread resistance to government policies brought De Gaulle virtually down on his knees as he desperately attempted to prevent total chaos and imminent civil war from breaking out in France. Only the army stood in the way of a leftist take-over.

De Gaulle was forced to give in to the ten million strikers who urgently demanded higher wages. De Gaulle instructed his Prime Minister, M. Pornpidou, to promise disgruntled Frenchmen a 35 percent increase in the national minimum wage.

At that time we reported in The PLAIN TRUTH from Paris: "But this wage increase will have a very serious and crippling long-term effect on the French economy."

Even at that time, it was plain to see what was happening to France. De Gaulle was in a dilemma. If he didn't give in to the strikers' demands and grant a big wage increase, all France would soon be paralyzed — bankrupted by the effects of crippling strikes. De Gaulle's Fifth Republic would have crashed under the weight of a full-scale bloody revolution. Nobody in France, it seemed, really wanted that to happen.

But if De Gaulle gave in to the demands of the workers and granted the strikers their wage increases, it would be just a matter of time until the French economy would be in the doldrums — and that is just exactly what has now happened!

The French franc has been under pressure ever since the riot-strike crisis in May, 1968 forced De Gaulle's hand. It still looks as though a devaluation of the French franc is inevitable. Few seriously doubt this. The only questions revolve around just how soon and by how much will the franc be devalued. (And stubborn German refusal to revalue the deutsche mark isn't helping the tottering French franc, either!)

There are important reasons why De Gaulle stepped down from his pinnacle of political power in France. France was tired of following De Gaulle toward the ever-elusive goal of international pride and prestige. Frenchmen were weary of supporting De Gaulle's very costly force de frappe — his independent nuclear striking force — through tax increases.

De Gaulle's magic charm was beginning to wear very thin. The average Frenchman was more concerned about a better living standard than he was about French grandeur or how many hundreds of millions' worth of gold the French government had hoarded away — or with De Gaulle's pet project — an independent nuclear deterrent.

So . . . all France spoke out. De Gaulle hesitated, then gave in to the demands of his people — knowing full well that this meant the death-knell to his cherished hopes of restoring France to her place of Big Power status and resultant prestige.

Nobody yet really seems to know why De Gaulle forced the issue by thrusting upon the French nation a referendum, thereby bringing about his defeat and humiliating rejection by the voters. Had De Gaulle been misled — wrongly thinking the polls showed he would once again win? Had he misread the Frenchman's mind toward himself and his policies? Or, was he led, compulsively, to reassure himself that the French nation was solidly behind him?

Whatever the reasons, De Gaulle gambled and lost! So he gracefully retreated to Eire (Southern Ireland) to vacation until after French elections put a successor in the Elysee Palace which he had occupied for nearly eleven long years!

Regardless of who might have succeeded De Gaulle, it is clear that Gaullist policies would not and could not be changed overnight. De Gaulle had steered the French ship of state in a definite direction for over a decade. Whoever becomes President of France couldn't immediately change the course of that great nation:

It will take time to alter the course of France as set by De Gaulle. But France is bound to alter her course — is certain to begin veering away — though some form of Gaullism will undoubtedly continue to guide the destiny of France for several years to come.


Rise of West Germany!

Within the last year France has stumbled from crisis to crisis. Her reserves have slipped from about $6,100,000,000 to $3,800,000,000. The riots and strikes which nearly paralyzed France in 1968 forced the government to grant wage increases which France could ill afford. This has put such strain on the franc that devaluation is almost certain as a therapeutic measure to restore the health of the French economy.

Furthermore the Gaullist theory that the Soviet Union was willing to play ball with any nation who would be nice — this theory was shattered by the Soviet military occupation of impotent Czechoslovakia. Even De Gaulle apparently finally awakened to the facts of life — awakened to realize that Russian Communists were determined to maintain their iron grip over all Eastern Europe. Russia's invasion and military occupation of Czechoslovakia shattered once and for all De Gaulle's dream of a Europe "from the Atlantic to the Urals."

So, many in France just became fed up with De Gaulle — fed up with his economic and political policies. Even many Frenchmen were annoyed to see their President insulting the rest of Europe, America, Canada, Israel — anyone who opposed him.

In spite of De Gaulle's attitude toward just about everyone who disagreed with him, one fact is generally agreed upon. Everyone — friend and foe alike — respected De Gaulle for his unshakable convictions. No one thought he was a weakling.

But it is now clear that West Germany is the real economic powerhouse in Western Europe. West Germany also has the most powerful conventional military force in NATO.

Even before De Gaulle's resignation, it appeared that French envy and concern over Germany's rising power was beginning to color their attitude toward Britain in her bid to enter the Common Market. Hence De Gaulle tendered to Britain a feeler in which he proposed close Anglo-French cooperation to counterbalance rising German economic and political dominance over Common Market member nations.

But it was too late!